The impact of drug addiction on families


Substance abuse and addiction exert a huge impact on the family life of countless individuals who suffer from the devasting effects of addiction. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the person using drugs wants to hurt the family but the disease of addiction leads to social and financial problems that, sooner or later, affect family members’ lives in a very disruptive way. According to studies, parents who use illegal drugs or abuse alcohol are 3 times more likely to abuse their children and 4 times likelier to neglect them.

The problems that substance addiction may cause in relationships and family life depend on the severity of the drug problem, the behavior of the user, and the presence of other significant medical or psychiatric problems. Drug problems often cause mistrust, worry, frustration, feelings of anxiety, anger and, violence within a family. Also, according to specialists, addiction problems in families contribute to higher rates of separation, divorce, and financial problems.

Instability within the whole family system

Substance users are often unreliable and cannot be counted on to act as they say they will. Therefore, the incapability of relying on a partner or a parent leads to instability within the whole family system. The unpredictability of a family member who compulsively takes drugs can cause feelings of anxiety, emotional pain, stress, and a loss of trust.

Financial instability

One of the most worrying consequences of substance abuse on families are the economic ones. Drugs are rarely free and an addiction can quickly become expensive. Addicted individuals present signs of job instability and often try to steal money or valuables from the household to finance their addiction. Not being able to fulfill their job responsibilities due to the effects of their addiction often leads to unemployment which affects the financial foundation of the family. The loss of job of a parent who is supposed to financially support their family causes the whole family to suffer from lack of heat, food, electricity, or even roof over their heads.

Continuing familial damage

Parents are the most reliable role model of children from very early ages. They always look up to their parents to learn, copy their behaviors and life perspectives. Therefore, specialists claim that the negative repercussions of addiction within a family can linger for many generations in various ways.  Addicted parents start neglecting their kids and no longer offer them emotional and financial support and education, thus without their parents guiding, kids gain dysfunctional behaviors which affect their inclusion in the society they live in. Secondly, the effects of substance abuse can have a negative impact on role modeling which can cause younger generations to copy their parents’ behavior and engage in addictive behaviors as well. Consequently, children who grow up in a dysfunctional family due to the drug addiction of their parents, they are more likely to both develop an addiction and to become negative role models to their kids by repressing the anger, emotional traumas, and frustration they have felt as kids.


Engaging in isolating behaviors is one of the effects of drug addiction that affect both the user and the family members. Medical specialists say that drugs exert a heavy influence on a person’s cognitive functioning and judgment, thus the addicted family member may suffer extreme behavioral changes which lead to acts that can make the family withdraw from both family or social activities. The sense of isolation is caused by the decision of some family members to distance themselves from their addicted loved one due to the inability to cope with the situation. Also, drug users often choose to isolate themselves from their loved one to try to hide their addiction or to be able to pursue it without being judged by their family members.

Child abuse

One of the most worrying impacts of drug addiction on the whole family of the user is the fact that it can lead to child abuse. Parents who suffer from drug addiction often forget about their parenting responsibilities and start neglecting their children or perceive them as a burden. Within families where alcohol or drug abuse are present children often have to take the roles of adults and look after their younger siblings and themselves. They also take all the household responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, providing money, and even providing emotional support to the addicted parent. Due to emotional instability and behavior problems, parents perceive their kids as a barrier for their addiction so they often start abusing them, physically and psychologically, to repress their frustrations and anger.

How to help an addicted loved one

Battling a substance abuse disorder is a tremendous experience because illegal substances have devastating effects on the user and on other people directly involved. Spouses, children, and parents who witness a family member struggling with addiction experience emotional damage, as well as financial, legal, and medical consequences.

Having a family member struggling with drug addiction is a terrible experience but with your support and help, they have a greater chance of overcoming their addiction. There is no fast and easy way to help someone with an addiction and it requires patience, willpower, and determination.

Seek professional help– Professional counseling and rehab treatment is one of the most important steps of the treatment process. If you have an addicted loved one, you can find out more about the medical, emotional, and social support needed to tackle a substance abuse problem.

Establish trust– trust is an important aspect of any social relationship. It has to be built both ways for the drug user to accept your help and support

Communicate– often, drug addicts find it hard to admit to their loved ones that they have a substance abuse problem. Therefore, it may take some time for them to openly communicate with you about the struggles they are dealing with. Yet, if you communicate honestly about the negative effects of addiction, your loved one might be much more likely to be open to thinking about changing their destructive habit.